Program helps teachers write new classroom experience

National Writing Project workshop members participating in a Tuesday morning writing marathon outside Handley Regional Library in Winchester are, from left, Joe Golimowski, an English teacher at Kettle Run High School in Nokesville; Kathy Hayden, a second grade teacher at Livingston Elementary School in Spotsylvania; Amber Williams, a first grade teacher at Cedar Forest Elementary School in Spotsylvania; Christine Welch, an eighth grade English teacher at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg. Josette Keelor/Daily

WINCHESTER — After a Tuesday morning writing marathon, teachers from around the region expected to feel more at ease proclaiming “I’m a writer.”

The marathon began at the Old Courthouse on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Winchester and led program participants to various downtown locations where they would draw inspiration from their surroundings to be able to enhance their creativity. Afterward, they planned to meet at Shenandoah University’s Bowman Building on Cameron Street and read aloud to the group what they had written.

Teachers who already enjoy writing improved their skills while learning new ways of incorporating writing into the classroom this fall.

Part of a four-week summer institute organized through the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project and Northern Virginia Writing Project, the marathon was only one event happening around the country through the National Writing Project.

It’s for writers to learn from other writers, said participant Jenny Tate, a teacher from Spotsylvania who plans on teaching seventh grade this fall. “[It’s] making learning meaningful for students.”

Jen Cherry, a seventh grade English teacher at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn, writes on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall in Old Town Winchester on Tuesday morning with other teachers from around the region. The writing marathon was part of a four-week workshop through the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project and Northern Virginia Writing Project. Josette Keelor/Daily

About 50 teachers traveled from around the region to be part of Tuesday’s day of writing, including Christine Welch, an eighth grade English teacher at Signal Knob Middle School in Strasburg.

She came to learn some new ideas she could use to help inspire her students in Shenandoah County Public Schools.

“It’s been amazing,” she said of the program so far. “I’m learning so much about teaching in general.”

They’re the sort of ideas she said her teaching team at the middle school might be able to use in other subjects as well.

Program director Mary Tedrow said these ideas can work for teachers of all subjects and grade levels.

“What a lot of teachers do is just recreate it,” said Tedrow, English Department Chair at Handley High School in Winchester. “If you’re on a field trip, you can have them write.”

The Shenandoah Valley Writing Project, housed at Shenandoah University in Winchester, started last year as an offshoot of the larger Northern Virginia Writing Project. The first year was funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Effective Educator Development program.

The intention was to encourage teachers to think more creatively about how to teach writing to their students, thus sparking students’ greater interest in writing.

Because teachers, like students, can feel inadequate in their writing skills, Tedrow said the program helps them learn new ways of harnessing their creativity. It makes writing more fun.

Jacqueline Weitman, Signal Knob’s librarian, said she hoped to learn some tips to use in creative writing programs hosted at the school library.

“It think it’s extremely important,” Weitman said.

A writer all her life, she said the program has boosted her own confidence in writing.

“To be able to say ‘I’m a writer,’ it makes a big difference.”

Contact the Shenandoah Valley Writing Project at http://shenandoahwritingproject.org

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com